‘”Do you know, oh holy knight,” Alan says from behind me, “I’m pretty sure showing up dressed as yourself is cheating.”
“I, uh – that is a bad pun, Shackleford! Bad! Pun!” I turn around and grin like the lovesick fool I am at my wife, who’s just appeared from the house. “Besides, you wanna try telling that to Morgan, too?”
“Good to see you too, Chris,” Alan says, hugging me. “And the queen of your heart.”
I’m not afraid to admit that I scream like a little girl when said queen of my heart pops up behind me and sweeps me up in a hug. “Hello, love.”
“Hello, princess. You look beautiful.”
“So I’m only your princess now?” Morgan teases. “I thought I was your queen.”
“Yeah, but that would make him prince-consort and heaven knows he’s no prince,” Anne snarks, walking up. “Hell, back in the day you were barely a noble.”
I snort, albeit a little guiltily. “Well, barely noble at any rate. Frankly, I was a”…’
‘Hey, Chrissie? Love? Maybe don’t corrupt Evie just yet…’
‘Oh. Sure. Let me skip ahead a bit to the werewolf.
So, anyway, where are we? Oh yeah, the Shacklefords showed up, your mum’s all over me, Duke’s off sniffing something in his cute little pirate outfit, when he starts… yapping.
Course, I’d trust that pup with my life, so I perk up just in time to hear an ominous rustling.
And it’s not from Duke.
An unearthly howling rips through the garden. Letting out a terrified scream, Morgan throws herself against me. As the monster cackles triumphantly, I pull my whimpering wife closer and fervently hope whatever gods are up there are more merciful than this hellbeast.
“God,” it cries through its relentless laughter, “your face!”
Ugh. I should have known. The werewolf isn’t a snarling hellbeast, but your grumpy Uncle Vince dressed up and apparently having taken a few acting classes. Your traitorous mother is cackling like a… cackling thing… and I’m, well, very conflicted. On the one hand, it’s hilarious. On the other, my heart!
In the end, Uncle Alan ends up yelling at him for me. “Vince, you…”
Erm. Ahem. He, uh… casts a few aspersions on Vince’s parentage. Loudly. And repeatedly. Honey, remind me again why I picked this story?’
‘No idea, love. How about telling her the one about how we met?’
‘Sure, pup. So, it’s during the war, and I’ve just joined up after… a thing I won’t talk about until you’re a bit older. Let’s just say it’s why your Daddy can’t sleep sometimes either. And on my unit is this really pretty woman with these big blue eyes that look like they’ve already seen the world…’
I am the Captain of the Guard, eldest heir to the Havas name (albeit only by a few minutes), a master swordsman, one of Estella’s most trusted courtiers, and… and…
And a complete wreck around my queen.
“Your Majesty,” I stammer, “I… I mean, I would… haaaaaaaah.” I can see her trying not to laugh. At least she’s not annoyed. “My apologies, m’lady. I apparently cannot talk today.”
“Your eloquence is undeniable,” she teases. “Now, breathe and tell me what it is you want.”
I follow her instructions and the noise in my ears quiets down. I didn’t realise how fast my heart was beating.
I need my brother’s advice. Moral support. And, conveniently, a sword upgrade.
“Lukas!” I call. “I have a job for you!”
He gulps. “Full name. This… isn’t a normal commission, is it?”
“It isn’t, no. The sword upgrade is – just whip me up something pointy – but I also need your advice.” I sigh. “I can’t talk around the queen. The queen! How in the abyss am I supposed to keep my status as one of her most trusted courtiers if I break down every time I go near her? Not to mention the way my heart thumps around her.”
My heart sinks roughly in time with my brother’s expression. “Queen Estella? The Queen Estella? Sweet Watcher, Vince, I’m not sure whether you’re the luckiest man in the world or the unluckiest.”
“What… what do you mean?”
“Oh, you’ll understand soon enough. Anyway, about that sword…”
The next one happens about a week later. Estella is talking with her advisor about some personal matter. I try not to overhear, but somehow the conversation seems directed at me.
“But what of our allies?”
“What of our allies, my Queen? Would you anger one to please another? They may all be vying for your hand, but remember: this will not affect the loyalties of the victor, but the losers.” Estella’s advisor winks and I feel a strange lurching in my stomach. I knew that meat was bad. “Can you really afford to anger every ally but one?”
Estella’s face brightens and my stomach settles down. “No. No, I cannot. I shall simply have to court a member of my own kingdom.” She laughs triumphantly and thanks her advisor before practically skipping out of the palace. I follow her with my eyes, lost in a dream. The fog only lifts when I feel someone gently shaking me. “Captain? Captain! Are you alright?”
“I… have completely forgotten what I was doing.”
It doesn’t get any better. I’m so distracted I walk into trees, walls, people… even my Queen. “Oh! My deepest apologies, my lady.”
“No need, no need. In fact, this is quite the serendipitous meeting.”
“It is. I need to talk to you about something important to both me personally and the future of this kingdom as a whole. You may already have heard me discuss it with my advisor.” She sighs. “I’m not getting any younger. I shall need to attach myself at some point, simply to keep my bloodline going. And yet, I cannot simply marry an ally, as so often suggested. I have too many. Imagine if I gave my heart to one prince to have a dozen others sharpening their swords!”
“The abyss has no fury,” I mutter in understanding.
“Indeed. You see why I must speak with you.”
“Respectfully, my lady, no. No, I don’t. Am I somehow more trustworthy than the rest of your court?”
“Yes,” she says a little bluntly. “You are. I would trust dear Bradley with my life, but you are the only man I can trust with my…” She trails off and looks troubled. “Please, hold my sword. I need you to answer freely.”
I gulp and take the sword. “Answer what freely?”
“Captain… Vincent. I… I mean, you… would you… I have… argh! It seems it is my turn to be unable to talk!”
I have a dawning epiphany, and it sets my heart on fire. Kassi was right; I’m the luckiest man in the world. “If I may, perhaps, speak for you?”
I step forward, closing the gap between us. “Estella. Do you feel the same way about us? Do you… wish to court?”
“Then you do too?”
I nod. “I’m supposed to be the calm and eloquent one. But put me in front of you, and my heart thumps and my words disappear.”
“A terrible affliction for a courtier.”
“But not for a courtee.”
She giggles. “You, Vincent, are the worst.” She sweeps me into her arms and kisses me with all her might. “You need to stop talking.”
As our lips part, I look into her eyes and laugh. I still refuse to be the royal buffoon, but being the royal fool suits me just fine.
(814 words of a 900 maximum, which was really bloomin’ hard! Also 8 screenshots of a maximum 12. Go read the rest!)
I put down my mug and shake hands with the old man in front of me. “Nice to meet you, Lucian.”
“A pleasure, Michelle,” he responds. “So, you know Allison?”
“Yeah, she’s my boss. You?”
“A personal relationship. I’m an old friend of her family’s. Now, is this just a social visit or do you have something you want to talk about?”
“Well, it was supposed to just be a social visit,” I say wryly. “But since you asked, is it alright if I rant about a report of mine?”
Lucian gives me a fatherly smile. “I’m all ears.”
“Right. So, his name’s CJ. No idea if it’s short for anything, but if I had to guess it’d be Colossal Jerk.”
Lucian raises an eyebrow. “CJ Bonnaview?”
“You know him?!”
“My secretary, Gracie, is his semi-girlfriend.”
“Haha! Wow, small world. Well, he works for me right now. Unfortunately. And, well, he’s been… not the easiest to manage. He has a tendency to want his own way, and not shut up until he gets it. For example, a few weeks ago, I had to edit some of his work to align with the style guide. Well, Bea did, actually – she’s one of my other reports and secretly my favourite.”
“I understand. No matter how hard you try, you will always prefer the helpful ones.”
“Yeah. Plus I imagine there’s some affinity bias in there, as a fellow black woman and all.”
“Well, more diversity can’t hurt.”
“I know, but…”
Lucian nods sagely. “Well, carry on.”
“Well, the changes went ahead as planned, but CJ’s still whining about it! I just…” I wave my arms around in frustration. “Nya!”
Lucian snorts into his tea. “Beg pardon, my dear,” he says with a chuckle, “but isn’t that what CJ always says when he’s frustrated?”
I laugh too at the revelation. “It is! I’ve been managing him too much. He’s getting in my head.”
Lucian purses his lips and leans back. “Is this the first time he’s acted like this?”
“No,” I admit. “It’s not the first or the worst. Actually, he’s been pretty rude on several occasions. I’ve documented them, and my response. Gotta cover my butt and all that jazz.”
“Ay, there’s the rub,” I admit with a shrug. “She’s terrified of the Bonnaview parents.”
“Well, I don’t mind telling you or her that there’s no need to worry.”
“Oh, uh, why do you say that?”
“Because our poor, dear, narcissistic friend did bother to tell me his sob story,” Lucian responds. “And it turns out that his father was the one who kicked him out.”
He smiles. “I don’t think you’ll have any problems with the Bonnaview parents, my dear.”
“Fantastic! Thank you so so so much – I’ll be sure to tell Allison that this afternoon.”
“Wonderful. Goodbye, my dear, and good luck.”
“Thank you, Lucian.”
“So how was lunch?”
“Oh, you know how it is. Work, work, work, meetings, meetings, meetings. Some of our clients are… demanding.”
I shudder. “Thank the Watcher I don’t. At least, mostly.”
Allison doesn’t quite laugh. “Please tell me this isn’t just another complaining session.”
“Oh, I’m so sorry! I didn’t realise I’d been -“
Allison holds up a hand. “It’s not you, Michelle. You’ve been nothing but polite about the fella. A little too polite, confidentially. But we both know we can’t do anything without the blessing of -“
“The Bonnaview parents, yes, I know.” I slide across the documentation I’ve built up, and a little surprise from Daddy Bonnaview. “Does this help?”
Allison’s jaw hits the floor. “Holy good gravy. That’s a long list. And what’s that?”
“Oh, nothing much. Just an email trail between me and CJ’s dad.”
Allison reads through the emails. “So he…”
“Michelle! This is amazing!” Allison coughs and regains her composure. “Anyway, we need to call Jennifer. With this, I think we can finally put our friend on a PIP. I’d rather get rid of him straight away, but we might as well make the case airtight.”
“Thank you, Allison. I’ll email her now.”
As we get up, Allison says one last thing. “Oh, and by the way… wear your nice stuff tomorrow. I have a meeting with a client I’d like you to sit in on.”
I splutter out my thanks as she goes back to her office. I guess I’m not so bad at this management thing after all.
You know, everything would be so much easier if the new guy was actually nice. I try and block his whining out, instead focusing on those performance reviews I need to get done yesterday, but his abrasiveness still grates on me like I’m a block of cheese.
“…still, you know what they say, better to die on your feet than live on your knees. Although Daddy does both, being a Jacoban and a dad.”
“Oh my Watcher, that’s brilliant! I never thought of it that way, but that is so true. Your poor parents.”
Ah, much better. Personal, but I can tune it out.
“So I’ve had a few ideas on the new UI design, but as a convenient regular user I’d like your input.”
“Ha, I’ve never been called convenient before. But sure, what would you like me to say?”
Wait, is that Jackie? I thought she was still in Shang Simla… I hope everything’s okay.
“What do you mean, you changed my stuff again?!”
“Look, we have a brand image to look after… did you check the style guide before starting this piece? It has plenty of helpful tips…”
“Plenty of helpful tips, nya. You just don’t appreciate my taking initiative.”
Oh, for the love of… again?! Alright, Michelle to the rescue. For the third time this month.
I get up, close my laptop and walk past as if to leave. “Oh, hey Bea, CJ. Something I can help with?”
“Yeah.” Beatrix slides over the new flyer designs. “Take a look at these.”
“Wow,” I say, genuinely. “The layout is fantastic. I’m willing to approve these as-is, especially since they’re perfectly aligned to the style guide. What does it look like as a mockup?”
“Not like this, I can assure you,” CJ says, rolling his eyes. Aaaaaand there it is. “My original design was much fresher and less stuffy. But someone here doesn’t appreciate my initiative.”
“Oh, okay,” I say with an apologetic look at Beatrix. “You want to talk about it over here?”
We do. “Look,” I say, putting on my serious face, “I appreciate you taking initiative. What I don’t appreciate is constantly undermining the powers that be, and us in the process. The last time I disagreed with my boss, I set my career back five years.”
Bald-faced lie. That little horror story happened about two or three jobs back by now. But if it gets him to shut up and listen for once…
“Look, maybe the style guide does need updating. I’ll bring it up the next time I meet with the design people. But for the Watcher’s sake, please, enough with the grumbling at my top performers. You’re making them cry.”
CJ snorts – actually snorts. “Nya. The sort of display of weakness I’d expect.”
“Well! Thank you for making your position clear,” I say, trying to keep a handle on my annoyance (and failing miserably). “I don’t think we’ll get any more out of this conversation, so you’re free to leave. And those flyers will be put forward as an option… with Bea’s changes.”
I have to confess I felt the smallest bit of schadenfreude as he stood there gawping. Didn’t expect anyone to stand up to you, did ya? Not surprised, considering how much of a lazy, entitled little –
No. Shush. Calm.
Breathe in. Breathe out. Slooooowly.Don’t break down. Not now. Don’t let him get to you. Don’t let him cost you your job.At least not until you work out how best to persuade Allison to let you fire him.
Ahhhh. Much better. Can’t break down at work again. Not when the last time I cried at my desk cost me my job. Put me off revealing my diagnosis to HR ever again.
If only my network was as big as it used to be… they all deserted me when they found out.
It’s so much easier having connections.
Thanks for reading! This month (and last month) was a little different: in January, you were introduced to the protagonist, and this month you saw the antagonist courtesy of Flawsome Sims (AnnoyingTiger on the forums). Next month Michelle will get some help from a fellow manager who, it seems, has dealt with our pesky friend before…
And now for the stats: 651 words this month, with 7 pictures. Obviously, go read the rest!
I’ll tell you something, I should have known I’d go slightly crazy on my week off. I haven’t had a break in FOREVER. Spa days, self-care, an evening down the pub with my mates – I did it all.
I even went and had a cupcake for lunch. A literal cupcake. Strawberry-flavoured. Delicious. All the nutritional value of a dirty sock.
And now we’re on Sunday. My last day of freedom before I’m back at work. And I’m…
Eh, I’m not really looking forward to it. I try to stay positive, and most of the time I succeed, but work’s been frankly rubbish lately. It’s always a balancing act when you’re in management, and I can say, hand on heart, I do have it worse than most.
Linda gets it. She’s my best friend at the office. She knows how hard it is to be a woman in management. She knows the juggling flaming chainsaws whilst walking on a knife-edge I stuck myself with when I took this job. She was the one who told me to take a break already. Be selfish for once in my life.
I’ve no idea how much she understands. We both know it’s hard to be women in management. But she’s white, reasonably thin, and completely normal. I’m… not. I’m literally none of those things. I’ve had to put up with a lot to get where I am. And nothing, nothing, will come between me and enjoying my life.
But that’s not the point. I put on my headphones and enjoy my last day of being myself before I go back to work and pretend to be neurotypical.
I know, I know, in wino fairy toes and all that, but I still wasn’t expecting to have an epiphany about family in the middle of a drunken rant. After a long day out on patrol (in the desert, in this heat, whose idea was that?), I was sitting in the Round Table (lovingly refurbished after that incident with the tourist and Django’s spicy noodles) with my wife, my friends and a cool, refreshing “fruit mix”. Ha, what a nice euphemism for a stiff drink.
“Why do I get the impression you’re gonna start singing?” Sam said with a laugh. She’s always laughing. I like that about her.
I snorted and nearly inhaled my drink. “Because I’m drinking like it’s the end of the world?” I finished my drink and slammed it back on the table with a sigh. “I guess it felt like it last night.”
“You had that same dream again?”
Remy looked confused and more than a little concerned. “What’s ‘that same dream’?”
I swung round on my chair and made a weird noise as it nearly fell over. “Okay, buckle up you lot – this is heavy stuff. Don’t tell me to get my head examined, ’cause I already have. So when the dream starts, I’m tied up like we were that time with the Sharks…”
…when suddenly, he appears.
“Why are you here?” I snap. “Django promised you’d never come back!”
“Oh, sugar bear,” he says, voice soft and full of badly-acted love. “I’ve come for you.”
“Did you really forget me already?” he says as he pulls off the mask.
“Hello, sugar bear,” she(?) coos in my late father’s voice. “Miss me?”
“Yes!” I whimper, struggling to free myself. “Every day! But I love Lorelei now!” I start crying. “Please, move on. Move on like I have.”
“Do you know what it feels like to burn?” it snarls. “Now you will.”
I cry and scream as the flames start rising just like they did over the farm when I was fourteen. Even worse, I can hear a tiny voice. “Daddy?” it’s saying, over and over. “Daddy? Daddy?”
I must have cried myself awake. The flames abruptly disappear, replaced with little Alicia. “Daddy? I had a nightmare.”
I try not to laugh, but the relief gets to me. “Oh, you too?” I swing myself out of bed and pick up my baby girl. “You wanna talk about it?”
Remy looked at me with the unfocused gaze of the dumbstruck. “Jeeeeeeeesus.”
Sam took a long slug of her drink as if trying to erase the memory – or build up the courage to do something incredibly stupid. “That’s it. Cap- uh, Arlo, I’m buying your dinner. I might not be able to fix you, but I can at least guilt you into remembering to eat.”
Lorelei snorted. Unfortunately, she knows my bad habit of choice, and it’s that one.
“Sammy, you really don’t have to -“
“Forgive my insubordination, but also shut up. I gotta look out for my family, y’know?”
Well, that hit me like a punch to the gut. She was right. Maybe I don’t have any birth family left, but I’ve got plenty of family here. “Fine. Thanks, Sammy. What would you recommend, Sonia?”
“I would totally order the banner fish soup,” Sonia said. “I know you probably have it, like, all the time, but I wanna see you try the criminal.”
I spluttered. “Try the what now?”
She whipped out a menu from behind her back and placed it down on the table. I glanced over it as she flounced off. “How spicy do you want it?” it asked in big bold letters. “We have five levels here at the Round Table, so there’s something for everyone!”
I made my way down the list. The Squire: “for newbies, small children and those with delicate constitutions” (we all know he means Ginger). Next up, the King: “slightly more flavour,” according to the description, “but unlikely to cause any diplomatic incidents”. The Knight: “our standard fare for warriors and the adventurous”. The Captain: “as hot as could be considered reasonable”.
And then the last one. The Criminal. “This should be illegal except as a method of execution. Please do not attempt to copy the regulars; they are professionals and also completely insane.”
“Am I the regulars?” I cackled at Sonia, who was also giggling like a schoolgirl (albeit from a distance where her eardrums wouldn’t bleed).
“Yes!” Django yelled from the kitchen. “And if you dare order it, you’re cleaning up the sick!”
“Alright, Dad,” I laughed. “And whilst I’m at it, I promise I’ll be home by midnight, car intact, without an empty six-pack on the back seat. At least, not my empty six-pack.”
Remy snorted. “Yeah, yours would be an empty two-pack, you lightweight.”
“Hey, no ratting me out to Dad!”
“It’s what little brothers do, isn’t it?”
“You’re older than me.”
Remy just grinned. “Then it’s my job to be the responsible one, isn’t it Captain?”
I laughed and finished my drink. “I’ll get you for that.”
“Suuuuuuure you will.”
I must have been really drunk by then, because I started getting all philosophical. “You know something,” I slurred, “they say there are two things you can’t do with a family.”
“What’s that, sugar bear?”
“You can’t choose ’em, and you can’t replace ’em. But look at us,” I said, gesturing vaguely around and nearly knocking over the empty glass. “You lot sure aren’t my birth family. I picked you. I’ve got Dad over there,” I continued, waving at Django, “my goody-two-shoes little brother, my spunky younger sister, a beautiful wife, and a darling baby girl who’s, like, the one exception. Also, I’m turning into Sonia.”
The aforementioned Sonia whizzed round with another bottle of fruit mix, filling our glasses in anticipation.
“Thanks, Sonia.” I raised my glass. “To us: proof that everything they say about family is the biggest pack of lies since the 53-card deck!”
Thanks for reading, everybody! Word count: 1000 words (1000 limit, woo! – it was REALLY HARD this time!), screenshot count: 11 (also hard). You know the drill: go read the rest! (This month has also been extended through December, so go ahead and write something if you like!)
If there’s one autumn ritual I can’t do without, it’s apple-picking. Way back when, when this orchard was no more than a glint in some conservationist’s eye, it was an excuse to climb every tree in sight looking for the fruit others missed. Then Daddy and I would run home, baskets full of nature’s bounty, and gorge ourselves on apple crumble for a month straight.
These days, of course, it was mostly an excuse to hang out with my dog. And my boyfriend, if I had one. Talking of which, Angel (my dog, not my imaginary boyfriend) was going a bit nuts.
“What is it, bub?” I said, crouching down. I shuffled over to where Angel was sniffing, pushing my hat a little further onto my head in case he tried to knock it off. Bad dog.
I looked down. There, on the ground, half-buried in the soft dirt, was a small, round, shiny thing. I kicked it to the surface. This was no discarded bottle cap. It was golden, about the size of a penny, and sparkling beneath the layers of detritus it had gained over the… months? Years? Decades? It’s hard to tell with gold.
Wait a minute.
This wasn’t just a pretty penny, it was worth one.
“Nice! Good boy, Angel!”
But Angel was off again, this time sniffing round the base of the D’Arcy Spice tree at the centre of the orchard. Making an odd whining noise and pawing at the ground, Angel uncovered another gold coin.
Then about a hundred more.
“Hey guys,” I yelled, “come look at this!”
“What’s up, Eve?”
I pointed. Adam’s jaw dropped open and he said some things I’d rather not repeat. “The apple, the ouroboros… these must have been hidden here during the Siege of Willow River! And it’s the biggest hoard I’ve seen since… what would you say, Eris?”
Atalanta gulped, for some reason.
“Just think what else could be under here,” Paris sighed. His expression had gone all gooey.
“Yeah, and maybe someone can think for five – four – one whole second about the number of trees we’re going to dig up to get to it? Please?”
Oh yeah. Hadn’t thought of that. No wonder Atalanta had gulped.
“Well, I say we keep the trees where they belong. Didn’t we plant these things in the first place because they were, like, super rare?”
“We did. Thank you, Eve, for proving my point. We should bury the whole lot and forget it was ever there.”
“Are you crazy?”
“We’re all mad here. All the best people are.”
“For Chrissakes, Paris. If you’re going to make a stupid reference, at least make it relevant. We’re about to face paradise lost, would it kill you to quote Milton?”
“How about ‘Not helping, Satan’?”
“Yeah, exactly like – hey!”
“Excuse me? What did you just call my wife?” Melanion hissed. “You’d better apologize before I knock your pretty little block right off.”
“Ex-cuse me,” I said, now thoroughly annoyed, “are we still talking about the apples? Or are we just arguing with each other?”
“You’re right,” Atalanta sighed. She took out a particularly big and scary Swiss army knife. “I’ll get some cuttings. I’d still rather we keep the trees, but knowing fallen humanity it won’t take a global flood to wipe ’em out.”
“Think I’ll join you, if you don’t mind,” I said. “Come on, Angel.”
Angel trotted off after me and we left behind the crowd, now much bigger and all bickering about the fate of the Eden Orchard hoard. I sighed. Apple-picking had somehow become my least favourite autumn ritual.
Kaitlyn was right. Having a large – well, largish – reptile that could strangle me at any time just… sitting there was strangely comforting. It was like having a weird weighted blanket that moved just often enough to remind me it was a live snake and not a hypoallergenic poly-cotton blend with glass microbeads. It helped that the ball python was supposedly one of the more docile breeds.
Unfortunately, he was also in exactly the wrong place on my lap. I shifted uncomfortably as I pondered how to ask an embarrassing question.
“I don’t mean to whinge,” I eventually decided on, “but, uh, could you please remove him from my person? You’re right, he’s a lovely fella and I could have him in my lap forever. But I also really need to pee.”
“Oh, sure,” Kaitlyn replied, picking up the snake. “Come here, Guido. Straight ahead, door on the end.”
As I opened the door, something wriggled away and I screamed.
“Ohmigod, are you okay?”
“Yeah,” I yelled back. “Just didn’t know you had two snakes.”
Kaitlyn let out a rather loud swearword from the kitchen. “I don’t, hold on,” she said, a touch threateningly due to the rather long forked stick she was brandishing and the constrictor draped elegantly around her neck.
“Let’s have a look at you… ah, great. You’re venomous, aren’t you?”
“I’m what now?… Oh, right. You’re talking to the snake.”
“Alright, out ya go,” she said, gently if unceremoniously dumping the snake on the ground outside. “I’ll go put Guido back in his cage. Get yourself on your laptop and we can start work on that final exam… project… thing.” She lowered her voice menacingly. “I swear, I am gonna punch the next guy who lets his snake go feral in the face.”
I giggled and went back into the living room. Maybe sticking by my best friend’s side all these years all these years wasn’t so bad. She was right; snakes were pretty cute. Though it was funny that the harmless-looking little one was the more deadly.
But hey, I’m a major computing nerd who also likes pretty dresses. Covers, books, all that jazz.
I look out from my garden, watching the world go by in the dying light. I hear Diego as he talks to Mia, returning home from the church and his duties as a good Jacoban as he has every week since he was fourteen.
Well, except for that short stint in the middle. That was an odd conversation.
He brushes the dirt off his trousers as he mutters, “Thank you for being there with me.”
“Hey, no problem,” she replies, affable as ever. “That’s what I promised to do, remember? Though I’ve got to ask… why didn’t you let go of my hand? I thought it was supposed to be private.”
My ears prick up like Asgore’s always used to when he’d heard a strange sound or an offer of walkies. This is new.
“It is,” Diego answers. “But I thought my wife should know what I’ve been up to. Besides, we know the Watcher doesn’t mind, hey?”
Even I emit a low chuckle at that one. As a nominal Peteran, I’m inclined to agree. Of course, as a nominal Peteran I’d rather they stayed entirely out of my business. Anything more than a cursory acknowledgement of the supernatural’s liable to get you sucked to death by leeches or running scared because your ancestors’ calendars stopped working. Give me good old-fashioned rationality any day. Science gave me my future, my children, in some ways even my wife. After all, we surely would have drifted apart had it not been for our shared education at Camford.
As if on cue (no, I won’t use the other proverb), said wife opens the front door and slinks over to me.
“Simoleon for your thoughts?”
“Just an appreciation for the sciences… and how they led me to you.”
“Milesy, we both know I hooked you in with magic. One bat of the eyelashes and you were head over heels.” She waves her hand at me and shouts “AMORE!”
“Oh, my love,” I groan, pretending to faint. “How could I ever survive without you?”
“You’d find someone,” she – Dollie, who understands in a way others never have – says, rather naively in my opinion.
I snort, perhaps a little too derisively. “It’d take a spell or five to find someone like you.”
Or a miracle, I say to myself with an amused smile. Funny how things work like that. I never thought any daughter of mine would go down that route, but here we are.
Aha. And here she is. “Hey, Rissy. Good date?”
“Yeah. It was wonderful, thanks.”
I can’t help but be reminded of myself at her age. Formerly shy and quiet, coaxed out of my shell by a significant life event… questioning everything I ever knew. I’ve never been into “reality” shows, but I watched every episode of Jetset that season. I saw the “please, I know you’re there”s and the “I miss Charlie”s and my daughter growing up seemingly overnight and it was so good. Her transformation could, in my opinion, even be seen as a miracle.
You know what? A cursory acknowledgement of the supernatural’s all I need.
I’ve got all the magic I could ever want right here.